Between 25-27 October, a delegation from Bulgaria visited Lisbon for a series of expert meetings on child policies. The delegation was led by the Minister of Labour and Social Policy Ivanka Shalapatova and among the Bulgarian group of experts was Plamena Nikolova from the National Network for Children.
The Bulgarian delegation met with the Minister of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security of Portugal, Ana Mendes Godinho, for discussion on the exchange of best practices in the implementation of measures to reduce child poverty and ensure access of all children to education, health and social services in line with the objectives of the European Child Guarantee. Data shared during the meetings show that the proportion of children in Portugal at risk of poverty had fallen from 31% to 22%. A key factor in the effectiveness of social policy there is the establishment of a connected database between the Portuguese Ministry of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security and the local revenue agency. This allows the state to obtain information on families’ income and identify which children are at risk of poverty, and then automatically address benefits to support them without the need for parents to apply.
The Bulgarian experts also met with the President of the National Commission of Portugal for the Promotion of the Rights and Protection of Children and Young People, Rosario Farmhouse. There were also working visits to a centre in a municipality near Lisbon to coordinate activities under the Child Guarantee, a kindergarten in Vialonga, a school under the Portuguese TEIP programme to promote educational inclusion in schools in areas of high poverty or unemployment, a home for children without parents and other institutions and centres for children at risk of social exclusion.
The European Child Guarantee is an initiative of the European Commission as a logical extension of the policies set out in the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child. The Child Guarantee aims to ensure access to health, education, early childhood care, affordable housing and adequate nutrition for the most vulnerable groups of children in the EU, thus reducing the proportion of children living in poverty and social exclusion across the EU.
At the beginning of 2022, after a series of working meetings with experts and organizations, the National Network for Children drafted a document that lists the specific measures and policies to be included in the National Plan for the implementation of the Child Guarantee in Bulgaria. One in three children in Bulgaria is at risk of poverty. The position of the Ministry of Labour and Social Politics of the Republic of Bulgaria, shared during the meetings in Lisbon, is that it is necessary to develop mechanisms to improve cooperation and coordination between institutions so that they can implement an integrated approach to providing comprehensive health, education and social measures that will change the situation of children in poverty in Bulgaria.